Senators Seek Path to Punish Saudi Prince for Khashoggi Killing

(Bloomberg) -- A bipartisan group of senators is struggling over how to punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi without undercutting their parallel effort to restrict U.S. support for a Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

Five senators, including Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee, met Thursday to discuss whether to add arms-sale restrictions, other Saudi sanctions, and a statement about Prince Mohammed’s complicity in the Khashoggi killing, to the Yemen resolution set to be considered by the Senate next week. Senators are trying to avoid a free-for-all of debate over amendments to the Yemen measure.

President Donald Trump has sought to play down assertions that Prince Mohammed was responsible for Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate. A group of senators received a classified briefing Tuesday from CIA Director Gina Haspel that they said convinced them that Prince Mohammed played a role in Khashoggi’s killing and dismemberment.

The senators who met Thursday discussed procedural methods to prevent the Yemen measure from being subject to a chaotic debate that could lead to amendments being added that would tie up the Senate’s work for days and perhaps even torpedo the entire resolution.

“We’re trying to figure out how you deliver the strongest message without blowing up the Senate floor for a week,” said Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who took part in the meeting. “There are a lot of people who want to send that message but don’t want to shut down the Senate at a time when we have a lot of other important work to do.”

Murphy said the Yemen measure alone would send a message. “The underlying resolution, if it passes the Senate with a bipartisan vote, is a really strong signal that something different is going on here,” he said.

The group meeting Thursday morning included Corker; Murphy; Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican; Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee; and Todd Young, an Indiana Republican.

Six senators, including Graham, introduced a separate non-binding resolution Wednesday that asserts Prince Mohammed was complicit in the murder of Khashoggi.

Graham, who is influential on foreign policy issues and has lately been an ally of President Donald Trump, told reporters Wednesday he wants to "suspend arms sales and support for the war in Yemen until several things happen." He added, "One of them would be holding those accountable for Mr. Khashoggi’s murder."

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.